Commencement Addresses, Hypocritical Progressives, Jimmy Carter and Christianity, and Sigrid Undset

SIGNS AND WONDERS

Commencement Bias. It’s commencement season for America’s colleges and universities, and—no surprise—conservatives are wildly underrepresented as speakers at the top universities. A survey by the Young America’s Foundation found that among the top 100 colleges, 45 had liberal commencement speakers, four had conservative speakers, and the rest either had no speaker, multiple speakers, or speakers whose positions are not known. The Daily Signal, reporting on the survey, concluded, “Diversity of thought continues to be decidedly unpopular at America’s top institutions of higher education.” The Daily Signal, which is the news service of The Heritage Foundation, added, “While the media is fixated on the hundred or so students who walked out of Pence’s speech at Notre Dame (never mind the vast majority who stayed seated), the bigger story is the lack of ideological diversity at America’s colleges.”

Just Sayin’. Some thoughts on gender: If the sexes are really interchangeable, and biological reality doesn’t matter, why do Transportation Security Administration officials use women to inspect women, and men to inspect men? Given the new world order, isn’t that gender bias? Shouldn’t inspectors come up randomly, or when available? My point is that most Americans, even most progressives, exercise common sense on these matters. The real issue is what my colleague here at The Colson Center calls “journalistic incentives.” Normal is not news. Abnormal is news. So stories about sexual identity, gender dysphoria, polyamory, and the like get outsized news coverage—which creates the impression in the public imagination that such behavior is much more common and acceptable than it really is.

Jesus said . . . what? When Nicholas Kristof interviewed Jimmy Carter for a recent New York Times article, the main topic they explored was Carter’s religion. I should note that I voted for Carter in 1976, when I was an 18-year-old Georgia boy and Carter professed to be a pro-life, born-again Christian. The country and I grew up fast, and Carter quickly became an ex-president, swept away by the Reagan Revolution. Still, Carter acquitted himself admirably in this interview. What struck me was one of Kristof’s questions: “How can I reconcile my admiration for the message of Jesus, all about inclusion, with a church history that is often about exclusion?” It’s hard to understand how Kristof could get “inclusion” from such teachings as “No man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6) or “Straight is the way and narrow the gate” that leads to eternal life (Matt. 7:14). I guess when it comes to the Gospel, we all have a troubling tendency to hear what we want to hear.

Celebrating Sigrid Undset. Saturday, May 20, was the 135th birthday of Sigrid Undset. If you don’t know who she was, you are not alone, but she is a writer Christians should remember, read, and study. She wrote the monumental Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, for which she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. Undset is one of only 14 women ever to have won this elite prize. Raised by atheist parents, she became an agnostic herself before converting to Christianity at age 42. In part as a result of her Christian faith, she became involved in resistance to the Nazis in her adopted country of Norway. (She was born in Denmark but moved to Norway when she was two years old.) She had to flee Norway during the Nazi occupation, but eventually returned and lived there to the end of her life. She died in 1949. Her devout Christianity is strongly reflected in her fiction, though the integration is organic, not dogmatic. She has been mostly forgotten by Christians today, but she should be studied as a model for how to authentically integrate faith and art.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.


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